Multi-use Tools or How to lose a finger in the kitchen.

1. I like kitchen gadgets. I like appliances and little tools, pots and pans and whatever else you can think of. Since most of our wedding registry is really for me in this regard, I’ve taken to putting things like the entire Deadwood series in our registry so Chris has some guy stuff. Plus I let him put a branding iron for steaks with his monogram in there.

2. I’m a huge fan of Alton Brown. He’s a geek, like me. His television show is a lovely combination of food and Mr. Wizard scientific stuff. In many episodes, he will also have a segment on cooking equipment- utensils, appliances, etc. Alton is not a fan of the one use tool. He prefers what he calls multi-taskers. He once said something about the only acceptable single use kitchen tool is the fire extinguisher.

Balancing my love of gadgetry with knowing I should minimize junk in my drawers is not always easy. Hence, the multi-tasker’s true advantage: cool tools in less space! But is it possible to go too far- combine tools in such a way as to render the original useless or more hassle than its worth?

I’m going to go with yes, after viewing these new knives at The Kitchn: BasicKnives


(photo from the The Kitchn, reference first found at The Food Section)

At first, I thought these were a good idea. And in limited use, I can see how some portions might come in handy. For example, the zester tool which could also be used to make peels for drink decoration. The little scoops for small amounts of herbs- although limited to dried herbs or salts- might also have its place. I admit to using the pointed end of the knife to scoop out garlic and ginger from their respective jars although I keep that to a minimum in fear of contamination.

Now the grater. Originally, I thought: fantastic! I own 4 different graters (at least) but the convenience of not having to wash one for just a bit of fresh garlic would be lovely. Then mechanics got in the way. You see, I am left-handed and this lovely knife with build-in grater is not built for us southpaws. Those sharp biting little teeth would be scraping along my knuckles with every slice.

The peeler/knife combo, quite frankly, scares the crap out of me. That is just an amputation waiting to happen.
I loved the irony on the designer’s website:

Our world is over technologized and we tend to forget and enjoy daily things in life. Evidence can be found in our kitchen where blenders and food processors are taking over our place.

Bad English aside, if these complicated knives aren’t over technologized, I don’t know what is. Oh and I wouldn’t browse the rest of Ms. Noordijk’s site with kiddos around. Or at work. a-hem.

For an excellent source on all things Alton Brown, check out the Good Eats Fan Page with transcripts of every show (sorted chronologically and by main ingredient!) along with information on all the equipment and guest stars including Shirley O. Corriher, author of CookWise, The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking (buy it).

Farmer’s Steakhouse, Mulliken

farmer's steakhouse mullikenCame home from work on Friday and Chris had “planned” dinner. As usual, with his surprises, he won’t tell me where we are going. I finally got a name out of him but he told me Grand Ledge. This little restaurant is actually in Mulliken, 7ish miles west of Grand Ledge off M-43. There is a sign out on M-43 but the restaurant itself is in downtown Mulliken. Downtown being a stretch.

Farmer’s Steakhouse

The name pretty much says it all. This place serves steaks. They also have ribs and one chicken dinner. Pizza too. Chris ordered the ribs, which happened to be the special. Dinners come with choice of potato (or onion rings) and salad or coleslaw. I ordered a chicken sandwich, came with chips. Chris picked baked potato and coleslaw with the understanding I would eat his slaw. We also ordered our usual Coke/Diet Coke. Oddly, you can also get caffeine-free Diet Pepsi here.

We initially sat inside. The interior walls are covered from top to bottom with memorbilia. Some of it looks like garage sale finds. Other stuff is very cool. You can spend the time waiting for your food looking at everything. Check out the ceiling too. This will prove useful as they are kind of slow with bringing food to the table. As it happens, Chris was feeling warm so we decided to sit outside instead. I used this as an opportunity to take some macro pictures for my textures collection. The courtyard area and exterior walls are also filled with “stuff” including old farm implements, a firehose reel (with hose), even a rusty suit of armor. There is a collection of cast iron pans (probably still usable with a bit of seasoning) and license plates on the walls.

While I entertained myself with photography, Chris had a drink from the bar. He said it was cheap which I presume to mean inexpensive and not low-grade. Eventually, our food arrived. We never did get the coleslaw for Chris’s dinner but the garlic toast he wanted came on teh side along with a nice sized slab of ribs and a baked potato. I would tell you how the ribs tasted but I was not given an opportunity to try them. I barely saw them before his plate was a pile of stripped-down bones.

My chicken sandwich was, quite frankly, strange. It was definitely not a whole breast of chicken, battered and fried, more like chopped breast meat, formed and fried. But not like any other I’d seen before. It tasted fine, it just wasn’t that exciting. Served with thin cut bagged potato chips. I should have ordered the chicken dinner, I just didn’t think I was that hungry.

The tail end of our meal was a little rushed as it was now after 8pm and as the sun went down, the mosquitoes were coming out: the downside of al fresco dining in the country.

Our total bill was $31 including tip. Considering that included alcoholic beverages, I’d call that a real deal!
Service was slow but the waitress was very friendly.

Post-dinner we drove around the area a little bit and stumbled upon a hot air balloon landing for the night. The “show” part of dinner and show, then, was watching the team deflate and pack up the balloon.

Farmer’s Tavern & Steakhouse- Map
140 Main St
Mulliken, MI 48861
(517) 649-2227

Hours: Open 7 days, until 10pm Friday and Saturday. I’m not sure of their weekday hours.

Quick Review: Jennie-O Turkey Meatballs

Turkey meatballs, pre-made, in the freezer section. Ready in 2-3 minutes after zapping in the microwave.

NOT GOOD. Tasted like spiced wet sawdust. And the outsides were tough so it was hard to cut one in half with the side of a fork.

Recommended alternative: Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs.

I picked up the Turkey ones because they come in a bag and you can just pull out what you want. Last night, I made some pasta with marinara and added these in. It was late for dinner and Chris didn’t say anything one way or the other (he did like the smell of the veggies cooking earlier and the smell of my hands later- like onion). But I was disappointed. And slightly wierded out by the external texture.

Even more disappointing, you only get 3 meatballs per serving at 180 calories and 12 grams of fat! Yet somehow this is labeled as “45% less fat than the leading brand.”

TJ’s Meatless meatballs are vegetarian/vegan, have 140 calories for 6 (albeit smaller) meatballs and only 6 grams of fat plus 4 grams of fiber! Admittedly high in sodium though.

Main advantage was accessibility; the Jennie-O are available at Meijer. TJ’s of course, must be bought at TJ’s.

Loud, Smoky and Wrong

Chris wanted dinner out tonight, specifically pizza. I’m really not eating carbs right now but I agreed as long as I made myself get a salad first and limit myself to 1-2 slices of thin crust. I just presumed we were going to DeLucas but then Chris asked if I was willing to check out Tony M’s which is much closer to us.

Tony M’s is right across from the Meijer distribution center on Creyts south of 496. I’m sure Meijer, a few other warehouse centers and the GM facility bring in most of the business, particularly at lunch. About 7pm, we pulled in to a mostly empty lot and walked in the front doors. And were promptly confused. Through the main doors, there are two sets of seemingly equal inner doors. I peeked through the window on the left and saw a sign about private party so we went right. There were several people at the bar and perhaps 2 or three tables occupied in the dining room. We ended up standing in the entry for a few minutes, unsure if we could seat ourselves (we could).

After a few minutes, the waitress brought us menus and took our drink order (coke products, +1). I flipped to the pizza section then kind of glanced over the rest before nailing Chris down on pizza. We ordered a 12″ (medium) with half green peppers and onions for me and half onion, mushroom and sausage for Chris. We actually each gave our halves so there was a clear indication that this was half and half. I also ordered a side salad, sticking to my rule.

While we waited for my salad, someone cranked up the music and put on some dance club music. I actually liked the song playing but we were eating dinner, not out bar-hopping. It was really loud. And it took quite a long time to bring out my salad so I had lots of time to get my hopes up. Alas, they were dashed with the sad little plate of iceberg lettuce topped with two cucumber slices and the most absurdly bad tomato I’ve seen in quite some time. The whole plate was ice-cold and had obviously been in the cooler all day so I don’t understand the delay.

About 10 minutes later, she brought out the pizza. It looked great but it also looked wrong. No half and half, the sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions were equally distributed. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the sausage, we would have just eaten it but I don’t eat sausage. Immediately, we pointed out the error and Chris said he would be happy to buy it anyway, if they cut him a deal. The waitress kind of stumbled over this and said she would have to check with her manager. But either way, they’d remake it correctly.

A long five minutes later, she came back to say “no dice” on buying the mistake pie but the manager would cut a few bucks off the total bill. She also asked for a clarification on the toppings for each half.

Um. okay.

Yeah, really not okay and after walked back to the kitchen to resubmit our pizza order we figured out that she had to have lied to her boss and said we made the mistake, not her. Another 20 minutes later, our corrected pizza came out. And it was okay but did not look as good as the first which had really nicely bubbled, browned cheese. Tony M’s is generous with the cheese but they only gave us a serrated knife with the pizza, no serving piece so maneuvering on to the plate without losing half the topping required a deft touch.

When she brought the bill, they had taken $2 off, less than the cost of one soda.

We paid the bill and left ASAP. Throughout the meal, the loud music was randomly repeated as bar patrons fed the jukebox and the smoke was drifting our way. It was time to go. And not return.

I want to make a comment here about the handling of the mis-made pizza. If we had been complicated or changed our order, I would have been more forgiving. But we often order half and half and have devised a little system where I say the size and my toppings then Chris takes his turn. This seemed to have clarified the whole concept, in the past. Tonight, the waitress actually admitted (to us) that she forgot to hit the “Half” button on the order screen. Which really makes the handling even worse. The restaurant’s mistake and we tried to help them out by buying the mistake pizza at a discount along with paying for the corrected pizza and they said no??? At this point I guessed that the boss was going to take the mistake out of the waitress’s paycheck so she decided to blame us. We aren’t happy, the boss has to eat the cost of a screwed up pizza and the waitress is going to suffer by our reduced tip, even if he doesn’t dock her for the night. No one wins. I guess Tony M hasn’t been feeling the heat of the depressed economy yet. Sure hope Meijer doesn’t cut workers or GM takes another shift cut at Delta Township.

We won’t go back but if someone else wants to try it out:

Tony M’s Restaurant
3420 S. Creyts Rd.
Lansing, MI 48917

Other reviews at Mid-Michigan Dining and Restaurant DB which also has a menu.

Dolly’s Pizza

Chris and I have our preferred pizza joint here in Lansing. BUT, sometimes time is of the essence, take out is more convenient and DeLuca’s is closed on Sunday anyhow. Last night, we decided to stop at Dolly’s Pizza on W. Saginaw (by Outback).

First, we tried agreeing on a specialty pizza. I liked the sound of Chicken Parmesan but Chris preferred Chicken BBQ which had cheddar cheese on it. Not my taste, thank you. So, we ended up each getting our own pie. Outside of chicken pizzas, I generally prefer a vegetable pizza while Chris is really keen on having his meats. I went for a small green pepper and onion; Chris opted for a large with sausage, mushroom and onion. The usual for both of us.

I tried to order mine as the square deep-dish but the guy said they don’t make the square in a small. Its on the menu! Then he said they just don’t carry it at this location. This means one of two things: they don’t have the right size pans (acceptable) or their dough is delivered pre-rolled in to the available sizes (bad). I’ll hope for the former.

It took about 20 minutes for our pizzas to be ready so while we waited, we perused the store’s magazine selection, which consisted of a bunch of restaurant industry magazines. I love reading these things because you can figure out which restaurants are really cooking their food and which are just heating up pre-assembled stuff. Let’s just say that if you come across Indian-spiced onion rings at a chain restaurant, its not an original thought.

We got home and cracked open the boxes with anticipation. Both pies had nice even coverage of toppings with good amounts of cheese but not overboard. The cheese was bubbled and browned up near the crust. According to the company’s website, the secret is in the sauce. As it turns out, the sauce was both Chris and I’s least favorite part of the pizza! I thought it was just a little too sweet but more importantly, they were a little skimpy on the sauce. The crust was very nice though, crispy but not like a cracker.

The total with 2 20-oz pops while we waited was $26. This provided enough pizza for at least 2 meals apiece, probably 3 for Chris with the larger size.

Dolly’s locations are mostly in the metro Detroit area but there are a few scattered around the rest of the state. At some point, Dolly’s was awarded best pizza by the Michigan Restaurant Association. This was good pizza but I’m sorry, not even close to a Buddy’s Pizza.